The Monster is HereThe first meaningful pitches of Matsuzaka's Major League career were thrown today, albeit it against Boston College. The eyes of the world were on him, and you could sense the buzz that emanated from the Florida Field of Dreams. NESN's feed was broadcast on NHK this morning and I sat with my coffee to see what "kaibutsu" would unleash in his first go around.
The first thing I noticed was the abject fear on the faces of the BC kids. That may be a little strong, but it was patently obvious that they were intimidated and flailed away at everything Daisuke threw at them. In general, breaking pitches and changeups led the BC batters, and we saw a number of mid-to-low 70s changes that simply fooled the amped up youngsters. The fastball was mixed in to keep them honest at around 92mph, and was very close to being on the black when he missed. I thought the first batter of the 2nd was out on a nasty low fastball that seemed to catch the lower part of the plate. Daisuke and Varitek shook off the disappointment and got him to bounce out weakly.
Had this been a test against Major Leaguers, I would have done a batter by batter analysis of his start, but these are overmatched collegiate ballplayers, of whom I know nothing. It has no value. Look for a more comprehensive pitch-by-pitch look at his next start. For this start to his MLB career there is only one last point to discuss. The interviews.
Matsuzaka did an NESN interview with a female reporter that I'm not familiar with. Nation fans will know, and I'd appreciate your help in filling in the blanks on these things as we go this season. The reporter led with a question about his performance that went something like, "You gave up a leadoff double and then retired the next 6 batters, what do you think about your performance." I think that's an atrocious question to ask anyone as a journalist, but I suppose some players would answer it with an interesting response. Asking a Japanese player that question is not all that different than asking him if he thinks he's the most handsome man in the whole wide world. By cultural imperative the only answer that a guy can give is "I did my best. I'll try harder next time." Matsuzaka couldn't even muster that. He stuttered, thought for what seemed like 30 seconds, stuttered again, and asked himself aloud, "Uh. What should I say about that?" Finally, he settled on the enlightening "Ma, yokkata desu ne." That translates to, "Well, I was okay."
The level of comfort that Daisuke has with the American reporters is clearly something he'll need to work on. He smiles, and giggles, and looks perplexed at the questions he's asked. The Japanese interview in contrast was far more enlightening, as his countrymen give him the type of questions he's prepared to handle. The most interesting piece of info that came out with NHK was that Daisuke feels his legs aren't in good condition yet. He said that he hasn't been able to throw as much as he wants, and feels he's behind where he should be.
The other question that NESN asked him was about how he felt the MLB strikezone compares with NPB. Another silly question. Home plate umpire Rust Batcher isn't even an MLB ump, as far as I can tell. Matsuzaka threw a total of 26 pitches in front of him, compared to 8 years of pitching in the NPB. Who writes this stuff? Terrible. Anyway, more good stuff to come!! Stay tuned.